Week Twelve: Speaking Truth to Power

This chapter is no less depressing than last chapter. It seems the patterns of repression, disappearance, and corrupt leadership continued well into the 80s and 90s throughout Latin America. I think the information we read about the Madres organisation shows the desperation felt by the general public. Their strong opinions and passion when speaking into the journalists’ microphones, their “por favor”s, all show how affected they are by the government’s actions. The disappearing of “subversive” citizens that we saw last chapter in Peru and that happened also in Cuba post-revolution continues into the 80s in Argentina. While these countries all had relatively different dictatorships it’s interesting to see how the same authoritarian government tactics were used across Latin America. Just like authoritarianism is a common Latin American pattern, it seems the evolution of government repression tactics in this time period is too. The affects felt by these governments certainly still exist today as theĀ Madres continue to march.

I noticed some themes in this chapter that connect to what we’ve previously seen in the course as well. The corruption of leadership and authority is something that really captured by attention in the readings. We’ve seen multiple times and it is again a key aspect this week. In the context of the emerging drug economy and crackdown on drug crime in both Latin America and the United States, the dynamic of authority changes yet experiences the same kind of corruption and inequality we’ve seen through decades of Latin American leadership. Police and political figures begin to lose control, as Dawson argues, and the fear of losing control results in authoritarian leadership. This would explain the pattern of leadership in Latin America, from colonisation to the 80s, as elites and those in power fear the rise of the repressed and lower classes.

In the context of the drug war, the open letters to the drug cartels and Mexico’s politicians and criminals show the shift of authoritarian power from government to drug lords. Instead of addressing the government that theoretically could act to solve the problems journalists are facing by covering drug stories, theĀ Diario directly addresses those who could actually make a difference, those who hold the most power currently: the drug lords. So the authority that holds the power has changed, but the same repressive patterns continue. People disappear, turf wars and the underground economy inspire conflicts among influential groups as they each strive to maintain a monopoly, and the general populace is afraid of those who are in power. Even the police switch from being a (corrupt, when considering the Aguas Blancas Masacre) government authority to being the corrupt puppets of drug cartels. Sicilia embodies the theme of “literary figure to political figure” transition we’ve seen in Latin America as he also addresses corruption and repressive authority in his open letter to both politicians and criminals.

I wonder if we can see this theme in the US as well in the context of the war on drugs. While cartels may not hold as much power in the US and don’t directly steal power away from American governmental authority, drugs certainly have a massive influence in US criminal and justice policies starting from Nixon’s crackdown, grown throughout Reagan and Bush’s War on Drugs. If so, I wonder if this would support the closeness of the relationship between the US and Latin America, or further increase the tensions between them.

1 thought on “Week Twelve: Speaking Truth to Power

  1. valeria perez

    I share the feelings of grieve and uncertainty you feel after reading this week’s chapter. The last issue you talk about is one of the key elements to understand the situation of Latin America. While the U.S intervention benefits the relationship of the elite and corrupted politicians and institutions of both governments (U.S. and Latin America regimes), it also entails the breakdown of the social fabric. One documentary that portraits this is Michael Moore “Where to Invade Next.” It explains the U.S. war on drugs and the real objectives behind it.


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